Publication Date: May 2012
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The saboteurs? Holy Christ, what happened? What did you do to deserve that? a fellow soldier responds when he hears that Nicolai Lilin has been assigned to an unconventional, ultra-high-risk paramilitary unit of the Russian army. Also nicknamed the para-bats for the black parachutes that dropped them behind enemy lines at night, Lilin and his fellow saboteurs soon find themselves fighting Islamic insurgents armed with American weaponry in the breakaway province of Chechnya. In vivid, harrowing detail, Lilin relays how, under the mind-bending dangers of heavy fire, on unknown terrain, in unpredictable small villages, the only goal is survival. Under the leadership of corrupt generals profiting from the war, his unit develops a camaraderie that is their best hope for staying alive and staying human. Ultimately, the return to the bland normality of an impersonal society at peace might be the hardest struggle of all. Writing with unhindered directness and power, Lilin combines his own experiences as a sniper in Chechnya together with the stories of those he fought beside to forge an autobiographical novel unique in the literature of war. A bestseller in Europe, this novel will remain an unforgettable account of one of the ugliest conflicts of our time.
About the AuthorNicolai Lilin grew up in Transnistria, which declared its independence in 1990 but has never been recognized as a state. He fought as a sniper in the Russian army in Chechnya. He currently runs a tattoo parlor in Turin, Italy.
Serena Vitale is a professor of Russian language and literature at Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano. She is the author of numerous books and essays on Russian literature, and has also translated many Russian novels into Italian. Her acclaimed biographical work "Pushkin's" "Button" was translated into English in 1999.